Summer may be in full bloom, but there’s been no denying the chill in the Australian oil and gas sector, or that it’s been one helluva tough start to 2015.

But even as many businesses were battening down the hatches in the face of buffeting oil prices, as some fled to the sanctuary of M&A lifeboats and others sought to fend off offers for substantially undervalued stocks, green shoots began to sprout on a bleak landscape.

At press time oil prices (Brent) had rebounded to $60 for the first time in 2015, up 33 per cent from six-year historic lows in January, albeit still some distance off last June’s $115 bonanza. Even before the revival, however, it was interesting to gauge the attitude of some executives who showed little sign of panic during the downturn and the strategy of solidly cashed up companies eyeing investment opportunities.

One such corporation was Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search and its joint venture partner in the Elk-Antelope LNG concept, InterOil. Both companies emerged from a court battle in London—in which Oil Search’s pre-emptive rights claim following a deal with Total SA was dismissed—eager to shelve their differences and expedite the project.

Cashed up with $700 million flowing into their coffers from the recently completed PNG LNG project, an Oil Search executive explained the urge to hit the accelerator while others were slamming on the brakes.

“There are so many competing projects that were around before that are not around now. They don’t make sense in this weaker oil price environment. We are very fortunate that we got involved in two highly commercial and economically robust projects at a time when others are being delayed or deferred.

“Our view is that we want to capture these as quickly as possible.”

Another who remained calm in the carnage was Beach Energy managing director, Reg Nelson. Even as the star 2014 ASX performer’s stock almost halved within a year, Nelson reassured shareholders that Beach could produce profitable oil out of the Cooper Basin from as low as $25 and further reduce its operating expenditure.

Nelson was also prepared to put his head on the block with a bold prediction that, “Brent will climb back to $90 a barrel by the end of the year, so I’ve nailed my colours to the mast.”

There’s little doubt that some companies have used sagging oil as a convenient excuse for poor performance, but even as liquid gold played havoc with energy markets, gas prices remained robust.

While oil prices crashed, in the United States gas prices had soared 50 per cent to $3 MMbtu in less than two years. Australian producers—the vast majority harvesting export income from gas, and not oil—have also been given a 30 per cent bonus from a diving Australian dollar in recent times.

During the Global Financial Crisis Warren Buffett had said that more millionaires, those with the courage to invest in quality, undervalued stock, were made in times of depression and recession than any other economic cycle.

Those who know their Australian oil and gas history will recall how Woodside’s Pluto plant in the Carnarvon Basin had laboured through the eye of the financial crisis, confronting cost blowouts and delays to belatedly produce first gas in Q2 2012. Today Pluto’s detractors are silent, but Woodside, buoyed by a steady flow of cash from the plant, has paid a healthy dividend in recent years, even though its stock price ($35 at press time) was only $1 higher than three years hitherto.

PNG LNG similarly overcame tremendous obstacles, especially in trucking heavy logistics up the treacherous, 800km Northern Highway during the same period of economic turmoil. With three LNG plants in Australia racing towards delivering first gas cargoes in this, epoch making year, we are again hearing that familiar, cynical chorus that peaked during Pluto and PNG LNG construction.

What are the odds the naysayers melting into the shadows as operators turn upstream capex into downstream cash flow from first gas? Or that Saudi Arabia gets nervous watching its war chest deplete amid geopolitical, Middle East mayhem and tightens the taps to shore up security?

Only two things are certain: There’s never a dull day in the oil and gas industry and the remainder of 2015 is going to be a fascinating narrative.